Monday, May 31, 2010

Divorce and Forgiveness

Pop quiz: Think of one or more of your divorced friends. Have they moved on past their divorce or when they talk of ‘the ex,’ are they still bitter, angry and unforgiving? I’m betting you chose B-bitter, angry and unforgiving. If you’re divorced, what about you?

I hear the objections, everything from mental abuse to not adequately doing the dishes. My wife claimed my failure to consistently do the dishes drove her to an affair with the guy who put the tile in our bathroom. I’ve done battle with desire for vengeance and vindication over forgiveness and mercy.

Why choose forgiveness? Primarily we must forgive because Jesus commands us to. As one of my friend’s jokingly states, “It’s in the red letters, so you have to do it.” We have said the prayer many times, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The verse goes on to say “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

What is forgiveness? It’s a complicated answer and I’m a simple man so I think of it in simple terms. Forgiveness is not seeking revenge but actively seeking blessing for the one who wronged us. It’s a helluva lot easier on paper than it is in real life.

I still feel the rolling rage. When I first found out about the affair I would have moments, minutes and hours that I felt intense, marrow-deep, blood-red rage. The rage would come out of nowhere-there was no predicting when I would feel it. I rarely experience it now but it still comes, unbidden and then quietly exits.

In those dark days it was a mental battle to choose forgiveness. A forgiving attitude swam against the current of my emotion and my desire for vindication. Speaking of those mental battles Paul used imagery of warfare, for such it is, “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh—for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” Of which he means mental fortresses, not material ones.

Be patient with yourself in the process. Forgiveness isn’t the initial feeling, the immediate thoughts you have aren’t going to be positive. At that point simply allow yourself to be willing to be willing to forgive. Give God the process. Keep giving God the process. It will be an ongoing battle.

A healthy heart and head are the final reasons to forgive. Failure to forgive will ensure that your thoughts are continuously on your ex. They will continue to enslave you through your failure to forgive them. Cutting them loose with forgiveness frees your head and heart to pursue better things and newer adventures.

Fight to forgive then for we do not want to be those old bitter men we experience in our bible studies and bars and who we overhear grumbling at the supermarket. Life has so much more to offer us as we press forward in forgiveness and mercy.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Between The Air-The Conclusion

“His name was Ivars. They met in one of the refugee camps before coming here. She was fourteen, he, seventeen. They were in love. Days before mom was leaving with the family for the states, he disappeared. Nobody’s sure what happened. There were rumours-KGB, CIA. I just know that for years mom kept his picture next to the cyanide capsules she travelled with. At the end he gave her the music box, a little piano.”

“So the piano’s the key to this thing. Come on kiddo, let’s go see if we can stir up a little treble with this Sara girl.” I drove, she gave directions. Not a bad start for a relationship. Miss Sara has a little apartment in the hills above the city. Climbing the stairs up to the door nearly gave me a nosebleed. Looked like somebody had beat me to it. On the porch there were small drops of blood. Knocking, no Sara. “Kyra, you keep lookout. I’ll let myself in. If we get company, you holler.” She gave a slight nod.

I looked all the obvious places, the lingerie drawer, the bookcase, her desk and came up empty. Leaving the bedroom I heard the scream.

Kyra knelt in the entryway. “Damn step,” she said. “I got bored hanging outside and thought I’d help you search. I know her better than you do. On my way down I touched this under the lip of the door. No blood,” as she stood back up.

“She placed the key in my palm, drawing her hand back over my fingers as she let go. The tag on the keys read, ‘Hat Top Hotel-Rooms and Boxes by the hour.’ This case was getting to be like a little matryoshka, those Russian nesting dolls.

Down the stairs, into the car and away to the Hat Top Hotel, our relationship was moving fast. There was no main office just a main door leading to rows of P.O. boxes. This was too simple. The key fit easily inside the box and there was the music box. I handed it to Kyra.

In staccato words between tears she said, “Everything looks okay. What now?”

"Tomorrow we’ll go back to Sara’s. Maybe we’ll get lucky. I’ll meet you at the office at 9:00”

This trip found Sara in her apartment. While Kyra looked like everything you’d want in a dress, Sara looked like she could beat up your kid brother. “I figured we’d cross paths sooner or later,” she said. “Find anything interesting in my apartment yesterday?”

“Sara, we were so worried about you! The blood yesterday, and bad blood thanks to your quick disappearing act. Have you seen mom’s music box, Sara?”

Sara spoke slowly at first and gradually increased tempo, “This is going to take a while. Can I get you anything? Fine. The blood came from me. I really need to get those damn cracks in the cement fixed. I tripped coming into the kitchen and ripped off a toenail. Nothing major.

I’m CIA. I know Kyra, it’s hard to believe. After that incident with the police, I gave up trusting authorities in uniform. I rebelled. Then I decided that, I at least could be good. I could stand for something. So after college I enlisted.

While working on a case dealing with Nazi spies I came across information about the music box, I remembered you and your mom. Sorry Kyra-please forgive me.

We don’t know who Ivars worked for, if he worked for anyone at all. We do know this. He had compiled a list of top Nazi officials. Perhaps he thought it would help the war effort, perhaps he thought it would be useful after victory, I don’t know. What I now know is this. He had it engraved between the wood on the music box. Your mom’s music box."

I enjoyed the cool feel of my clothes as they touched my skin, dry material on dry skin. The air conditioner purred like a kitten with no fear of the thermometer. The knock sounded loudly on the glass pane of the agency door. I sat in my chair and awaited the next paycheck as Kyra led our new client back to my office.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Stretch Break-Between the Air Part 1

Between the air-conditioner and the news broadcast on the FM, I missed the first knock. “Coming,” I hollered mid-stride. There were few benefits to summer, and the way she dressed was one of them. The sun-tanned arms, the curves of her legs, the piercing steel-blue eyes. “Wow,” I thought, hoping I hadn’t said it out loud. “Come in,” I said, motioning toward my desk.

She sat across from me, her calves not much wider than those of the red-leather chair that half-surrounded her. “Kyra Bronson,” extending her perfectly manicured nails in my direction.

“Mac. Mac Flintridge,” I stated. What Mac Flintridge looked like wasn’t important. It was the solidity of his presence that impressed itself so heavily on the senses. “Which is it, something lost that you need found or something you found that you wish still lost?”

She breathed shallow, tears welling up in those eyes, “My mom, well, something of my moms’. A music box. She fled with it, through the camps and coming to the country. I think it has something to do with Sara.”

“Coffee Miss Bronson? Or would you prefer something that packs more heat? Who is Sara?”

“I’d best have coffee,” she said as she recounted this story from her high school years.

“It was late. We’d gone driving with a group of boys, they took one car, Sara and I took hers’. Sara kinda thought it’d be fun to play ‘hide-and-seek’ and veered off onto one of those little dirt roads that crisscross the outskirts of the valley. We thought nothing of it as we flew down that little dirt road.
The cops came out of nowhere. First we thought it was the boys messin around but then we saw it was a cop car. Lights flashing and siren wailing we were pulled over. Sara opened the car door and stepped outside of the car. The cop screamed, “Freeze!” He walked over to Sara and threw her against the car while screaming questions at her. “Why are you out here? What are you doing?” He unclipped his flashlight and shined it into her eyes saying, ”Why are your eyes dilating? What are you up to?” Sara screamed at the officer, requesting his badge number. He slammed her up against the car again with an injunction to be on our way. When we got home we called a friend on the force to complain, but were told to forget it-we’d never get anywhere.
Sara changed after that. She started hanging out with the rough kids. We drifted apart that year, her and I. Later on I heard rumors of drug use. She was in and out of violent relationships; the violence was mutual I understand.”

Kyra was briefly silent. I heard the air conditioner grow louder as if in fierce battle with the heat. Kyra picked up her story. “We connected again through an old friend. Things were going well. We seemed good together. When my mom was sick she spent a lot of time with her. After my mom passed….”

Her coffee sat untouched. I got up to grab myself another drink from the cabinet. Something cold, organic, healthy; I reach for a Shiner Bock. Raised my eyebrows in question of another drink for her. I take in the scene, the red chair, the blue summer dress, the long black hair falling straight. “She died, your mom?”

“Yes, cancer of course. Sara was with us much of the time. She was a great help to me, to, to, to us both. Later though, when I went to look for the box, I couldn’t find it, can you help? My mom left a little money. I wouldn’t know where to start.”

I had ulterior motives, no work on the docket, and an air conditioning unit that was on its last breath. “Sure I’ll help. Tell me more about this box. Then we’ll go talk to Sara.”
....To be continued

Monday, May 10, 2010

Anxiety, Paralysis and Baby-Steps

I dislike confrontation. I have a passive bent. I have a house that needs to be sold. I spent chunks of time this week worrying about calling the realtor and the renter. Decisions would have to be made-would the renter freak out and move out? Is this a wise move in this economy? I found myself frozen in a ‘paralysis of analysis.’ Hesitant to move, I thought of the Israelites.

Pharaoh wakes after a bad nights’ sleep to find every firstborn mammal dead. In roiling anger, army in tow (six hundred select chariots and the second string chariots behind), he screams out after Moses. Fleeing at midnight Moses and company have already left town. As the Egyptians bear down on Israel they experience their own paralysis.

With the Egyptians behind and the sea in front Israel panics, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the Wilderness?” they say to Moses. Moses seems to stall out himself until God nudges him saying, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.”

The sons of Israel had to begin moving before God ‘swept the sea back.’ The first guy in line placed his sandal in Red Sea sludge trusting the next step wouldn’t be his last.

That is what frees from paralysis. The first step sets in motion a series of events. Step-by-step as each step unfolds take the next step and “do the next right thing.”*

So the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea. The following morning Moses stretched out his hand and the sea returned to its normal state and the Egyptians were overthrown in the midst of the sea.

While life doesn’t guarantee us miraculous victories, we are promised wars in the wilderness. If we freeze and fret victory is impossible. Forging forward solidifies faith and allows God opportunity to guide.

“Remember that the shadow a thing casts often far exceeds the size of the thing itself (especially if the light be low on the horizon) and though some future fear may strut brave darkness as you approach, the thing itself will be but a speck when seen from beyond.”-Jim Elliot

*H/t New Life Ministries

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Summer Contrasts

The monsoons come in summer. At sunset Hailey and I plant ourselves on the trunk of my car and watch the lightning show. Atop the hills to the east, north and south the lightning bolts flash. It is quite the show to watch as darkness overwhelms twilight all grows dark. Then the lightning flashes. Five, four, three, two, one…we count until the thunder comes. The results of the high heat and humidity also bring about frightening and revolting consequences.

The Sawtooth Complex fire was started by lightning on July 9, 2006. The fire burned 61, 700 acres and destroyed 58 homes. The fire burned for nine days and was fully contained on July 18th. While the threat of fire is frightening there are less life threatening consequences of summer as well. The high heat bakes the Salton Sea and a collapsing temperature inversion creates algae blooms which microorganisms eat-creating a very strong sulfur stink.

One thing that doesn’t stink about summer is sleeping in. When the daughter sleeps over the rest of the year I have the privilege of kissing her goodnight and kissing her awake in the morning. Day breaks early on school days and the battle for quick breakfasts, furious face-washes and timely teeth-brushings seems never ending. Summer mornings I plant a kiss on her cheek and nudge her to move over and we catch a couple more hours of sleep. Breakfasts are bigger; bacon in the microwave, pancakes on the griddle.

Temperatures in the lower desert will hover around 115 degrees while in the high desert we get off with temps around 100. In the lower desert the air-conditioners run non-stop. Folks either leave town or become daytime prisoners in their own homes. Hence business slows down considerably. We take vacations.

This year will find us kayaking an ocean estuary and riding rail through redwoods. I truly enjoy the high-desert summer heat but it is good to go someplace where you need to sleep with a blanket.

Soon enough those blankets will need to be pulled from the home closet again, the swamp coolers covered back up and the air-conditioners turned off. In the low desert old folks will come outside again. Life will speed up and Fall will be upon us.